Tips for Managing Painful Intercourse

Cancer and cancer treatments can affect many aspects of your life, including your sex life. Pain with sexual intercourse can occur because of the physical and/or psychological effects of cancer on your body. Talking with your care team about your experience is important in determining the root cause of the pain, especially if this is a change from normal. It is okay to choose to stop having sexual intercourse in the short term as you and your care team find a treatment that helps your discomfort.

Here are some tips about managing pain with sexual intercourse for both men and women: 

Tips for Everyone 

  • Stress, anxiety, and increased tension can all result in painful sexual encounters. Open communication with your partner about how you feel, both physically and emotionally, is important. 

  • Talking with a mental health therapist can help you explore your feelings surrounding your sexual health and changes to your body image.

Tips for Persons with Vaginas

  • Lubrication can help with painful intercourse. Use water-based/water-soluble lubricants and/or vaginal moisturizers before sex.  

  • Vaginal dryness is caused by a decrease in estrogen levels. Your care team may prescribe estrogen creams that are inserted into the vagina to help. 

  • If your vaginal pain is caused by scarring, you may try experimenting with different positions during intercourse.  

  • Vaginal dilators may be recommended by your care team to help stretch vaginal tissue, particularly for people that have had radiation in the area. A pelvic floor therapist, someone who helps strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor, can explain how to use vaginal dilators to help with your comfort.  

Tips for Persons with Penises 

  • For testicular pain, over the counter medicines, such as ibuprofen, can help with the discomfort. Please talk with your care team before starting any new medicine. 

  • If your testicular pain is related to nerve damage (often described as a sharp, shooting, or tingling pain), there are prescription medicines or procedures, such as a nerve block, that may help.  

  • The use of acupuncture for testicular pain has been shown to help some patients. 

  • If your pain is caused by a narrowing of the urethra, surgery may be needed. Talk to your care team if you should see a urologist to explore your options. 

  • A pelvic floor therapist, someone that helps strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor, may help reduce penile pain if it is caused by muscle spasms. 

If you are unsure if your treatment can cause painful intercourse or how to manage your side effects, the Iris Care Team is here to help. Our nurses are available via phone call or messaging to help meet your needs.